Could smart locks empower informal cargo bike (or ELF) sharing?

Skylock smart lock
© Skylock

As the "Internet of Things" continues its relentless march, we can expect to see wifi capabilities in all kinds of silly applications that really don't really need it.

When I saw Skylock, a smart-phone enabled bike lock, I first thought it was one of those things.

Yet even Lloyd — a man who has been famously scathing about our obsession with smart when dumb will often do—thought Skylock was a pretty good idea when he first covered it last year:

The always hilarious Bike Snob NYC is not impressed, thinking it all overly complex, but I am; I always misplace my keys but am glued to my phone. Everything is getting connected in the Internet of things, the Mesh City, and having my lock talk to my phone seems like one of the better ideas.

But it's one particular aspect of the Skylock that I think deserves a little more attention.

Having just visited the Organic Transit factory with Lloyd to ride in their famous ELF, and marveled at the potential of these awesome but not inexpensive human powered vehicles, the Smartlock becomes ever more enticing in its potential for empowering informal bike (or ELF) share. You see the Skylock allows you to provide access to your lock to a selective group of neighbors or friends. So, given the number of people who would love an ELF, but find the cost hard to justify, what if we could band together with our neighbors to share one?

I can use my $100 bike for 80 percent of what an ELF (or other form of cargo/enhanced utility bike) could do for me, and in a famously transit-unfriendly region, I can't quite justify replacing one of our cars with an ELF. But what if I had an ELF or three in my neighborhood that I could unlock and track with my phone? What if I could buy a simple piece of off-the-shelf hardware that can take care of all the logistical and technological challenges that many municipal bike-share schemes have struggled to get right?

It's a tempting vision. I'm going to talk to my neighbors and see if it goes anywhere. I'll keep you posted.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Bike Sharing | Car-Free | Collaborative Consumption


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